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Information Type FAQs

What is the size of the surface footprint?

Black Butte will have a very small footprint with a total area of mine operations close to 270 acres, with in this fenced in area, the cemented tailings facility is 80 acres, the process water pond is 17 acres, and the plant site itself is 14 acres. All areas will be reclaimed at the end of mining. The company secures a bond before construction starts ensuring that sufficient funds are available to properly reclaim all site disturbances.

How will the tunnel be built?

The underground mine tunnel entrance will be well outside of the Sheep Creek Valley and will form the main haulage way for equipment and workers between the surface and the underground mine development. It will be developed using the drill and blast method. Drill jumbos (underground mechanized drilling machines) will drill 1.75in diameter holes which will be loaded with explosives and then blasted. The broken rock (called muck) will be removed, the roof will be stabilized by bolting, and then the process will begin again. Each cycle advances the decline approximately 14 feet. As currently planned, the decline will be approximately 17ft X 17ft.

Will this be an underground mine? If so, how will it be accessed?

Yes, Black Butte involves only underground mining accessed by a tunnel well outside the Sheep Creek Valley.

There will never be any mining from an “open pit”, dramatically reducing our environmental footprint and insuring continued historical uses of the land including cattle grazing and outdoor recreation.

The Black Butte Copper Project will always be an underground mine for the following reasons:

1. We have long term contractual agreements with the rancher land owners that there will never be any open pit mining on their property.
2. These types of deposits are best accessed underground as they are very deep.
3. It is the philosophy of our company that only underground mining fits this environment to properly protect it.

When will mine construction begin?

In Montana, construction can begin after a Mine Operating Permit (MOP) is issued by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the company has a reclamation bond in place. This will take some time because part of the permitting process is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process requiring substantial review including a public comment period. If the MOP for Black Butte is approved by the DEQ, construction of the mine is expected to take approximately 24 months.

Are you going to hire local whenever possible?

Yes, local hires are critical in ensuring a stable work force and supporting our local economy. It is important to maximize our local/regional hires.  We plan to have local Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA) trainings and other job trainings that will help the work force be ready for job opportunities.

Where is the project located?

The Black Butte Copper Project is located 17 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, and two miles west of U.S. Highway 89. The confluence of the Smith River and Sheep Creek is 19 miles downstream. To protect all water resources, the surface facilities, including the tunnel opening, mill and cemented tailings facility will be located off Sheep Creek, out of the valley, in a saddle of Sawmill Hill with the cemented tailings facility located 1 mile away. Sandfire purposely chose this distant location to ensure a superior job of environmental management for the mine site and for protection of all local waterways.

Why will we not repeat the mistakes of the past?

The mistakes of the past, which result in the unfortunate legacy issues people know from historic mining areas, reflect the past lack of knowledge and understanding of the long term impacts on water of various discharges. A great many of today’s standard practices weren’t available to our predecessors; they simply didn’t have the scientific research results nor technology now available to us. This lack of knowledge and foresight also resulted in insufficient bonding amounts. Many legacy issues in Montana are related to open pit mines with much larger volumes of rock, huge waste piles and unlined tailings disposal facilities located directly in waterways. They are completely different than our Black Butte Copper Project scale.

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